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Azazel (Hebrew: עזאזל, Azazel, Aramaic: רמשנאל, Arabic: عزازل Azazil) is an enigmatic name from the Hebrew scriptures and Apocrypha. The word's first appearance is in Leviticus 16, where a goat is designated "for Azazel" and outcast in the desert as part of Yom Kippur.

He is considered by many to be a supernatural being mentioned in connection with the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.). After Satan, for whom he was in some degree a preparation, Azazel enjoys the distinction of being the most mysterious extrahuman character in Jewish sacred literature.

Etymology

The name itself is a combination of the words "Azaz (rugged) and el (power/strong/of God)" in reference to the rugged and strong rocks of the deserts in Judea. According to Talmudic interpretation, the term "Azazel" designated a rugged mountain or precipice in the wilderness from which the goat was thrown down, using for it as an alternative the word "Ẓoḳ" () (Yoma vi. 4). An etymology is found to suit this interpretation. "Azazel"() is regarded as a compound of "az" (), strong or rough, and "el" (), mighty, therefore a strong mountain. This derivation is presented by a Baraita, cited Yoma 67b, that Azazel was the strongest of mountains.

Another etymology (ib.) connects the word with the mythological "Uza" and "Azael", the fallen angels, to whom a reference is believed to be found in Gen. vi. 2, 4. In accordance with this etymology, the sacrifice of the goat atones for the sin of fornication of which those angels were guilty (Gen. l.c.).

The ancient rabbis, interpreting "Azazel" as Azaz ("rugged"), and el ("strong"), refer it to the rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the scapegoat was cast down on Yom Kippur when the Jewish Temples in Jerusalemmarker stood. (Yoma 67b; Sifra, Aḥare, ii. 2; Targum Jerusalem Lev. xiv. 10, and most medieval commentators). Most modern scholars, after having for some time endorsed the old view, have accepted the opinion mysteriously hinted at by Ibn Ezra and expressly stated by Nachmanides to Lev. xvi. 8, that Azazel belongs to the class of "se'irim," goat-like demons, jinn haunting the desert, to which the Israelites were wont to offer sacrifice. (Compare "the roes and the hinds," Cant. ii. 7, iii. 5, by which Sulamith administers an oath to the daughters of Jerusalem. The critics were probably thinking of a Roman faun.)

In the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinical literature

Biblical Verse

Leviticus 16:8-10: "8and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel."

The Rite

Two goats were procured, similar in respect of appearance, height, cost, and time of selection. Having one of these on his right and the other on his left (Rashi on Yoma 39a), the high priest, who was assisted in this rite by two subordinates, put both his hands into a wooden case, and took out two labels, one inscribed "for the Lord" and the other "for Azazel." The high priest then laid his hands with the labels upon the two goats and said, "A sin-offering to the Lord" using the Tetragrammaton; and the two men accompanying him replied, "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever." He then fastened a scarlet woolen thread to the head of the goat "for Azazel"; and laying his hands upon it again, recited the following confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness: "O Lord, I have acted iniquitously, trespassed, sinned before Thee: I, my household, and the sons of Aaron Thy holy ones. O Lord, forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins that I, my household, and Aaron's children Thy holy people committed before Thee, as is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant, 'for on this day He will forgive you, to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord; ye shall be clean.'" This prayer was responded to by the congregation present. A man was selected, preferably a priest, to take the goat to the precipice in the wilderness; and he was accompanied part of the way by the most eminent men of Jerusalem. Ten booths had been constructed at intervals along the road leading from Jerusalem to the steep mountain. At each one of these the man leading the goat was formally offered food and drink, which he, however, refused. When he reached the tenth booth those who accompanied him proceeded no further, but watched the ceremony from a distance. When he came to the precipice he divided the scarlet thread into two parts, one of which he tied to the rock and the other to the goat's horns, and then pushed the goat down (Yoma vi. 1-8). The cliff was so high and rugged that before the goat had traversed half the distance to the plain below, its limbs were utterly shattered. Men were stationed at intervals along the way, and as soon as the goat was thrown down the precipice, they signaled to one another by means of kerchiefs or flags, until the information reached the high priest, whereat he proceeded with the other parts of the ritual.

The scarlet thread is symbolically referenced in Isa. i. 18; and the Talmud states (ib. 39a) that during the forty years that Simon the Just was high priest, the thread actually turned white as soon as the goat was thrown over the precipice: a sign that the sins of the people were forgiven. In later times the change to white was not invariable: a proof of the people's moral and spiritual deterioration, that was gradually on the increase, until forty years before the destruction of the Second Temple, when the change of color was no longer observed (l.c. 39b).

Personification of Impurity

Far from involving the recognition of Azazel as a deity, the sending of the goat was, as stated by Nachmanides, a symbolic expression of the idea that the people's sins and their evil consequences were to be sent back to the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity. The very fact that the two goats were presented before God before the one was sacrificed and the other sent into the wilderness, was proof that Azazel was not ranked with God, but regarded simply as the personification of wickedness in contrast with the righteous government of God. The rite, resembling, on the one hand, the sending off of the epha with the woman embodying wickedness in its midst to the land of Shinar in the vision of Zachariah (v. 6-11), and, on the other, the letting loose of the living bird into the open field in the case of the leper healed from the plague (Lev. xiv. 7), was, indeed, viewed by the people of Jerusalem as a means of ridding themselves of the sins of the year. So would the crowd, called Babylonians or Alexandrians, pull the goat's hair to make it hasten forth, carrying the burden of sins away with it (Yoma vi. 4, 66b; "Epistle of Barnabas," vii.), and the arrival of the shattered animal at the bottom of the valley of the rock of Bet Ḥadudo, twelve miles away from the city, was signalized by the waving of shawls to the people of Jerusalem, who celebrated the event with boisterous hilarity and amid dancing on the hills (Yoma vi. 6, 8; Ta'an. iv. 8). Evidently the figure of Azazel was an object of general fear and awe rather than, as has been conjectured, a foreign product or the invention of a late lawgiver. More as a demon of the desert, it seems to have been closely interwoven with the mountainous region of Jerusalem.

Leader of the Rebellious Angels

This is confirmed by the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located, obviously in accordance with ancient folk-lore, on Mount Hermon as a sort of an old Semitic Blocksberg, a gathering-place of demons from of old (Enoch xiii.; compare Brandt, "Mandäische Theologie," 1889, p. 38). Azazel is represented in the Book of Enoch as the leader of the rebellious Watchers in the time preceding the flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, shields, and coats of mail, and women the art of deception by ornamenting the body, dyeing the hair, and painting the face and the eyebrows, and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity; until at last he was, at the Lord's command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael and chained to the rough and jagged rocks of [Ha] Duduael (= Beth Ḥadudo), where he is to abide in utter darkness until the great Day of Judgment, when he will be cast into the fire to be consumed forever (Enoch viii. 1, ix. 6, x. 4-6, liv. 5, lxxxviii. 1; see Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." 1864, pp. 196–204).

The story of Azazel as the seducer of men and women was familiar also to the rabbis, as may be learned from Tanna d. b. R. Yishma'el: "The Azazel goat was to atone for the wicked deeds of 'Uzza and 'Azzael, the leaders of the rebellious hosts in the time of Enoch" (Yoma 67b); and still better from Midrash Abkir, end, Yalḳ., Gen. 44, where Azazel is represented as the seducer of women, teaching them the art of beautifying the body by dye and paint (compare "Chronicles of Jerahmeel," trans. by Moses Gaster, xxv. 13). According to Pirḳe R. El. xlvi. (comp. Tos. Meg. 31a), the goat is offered to Azazel as a bribe that he who is identical with Samael or Satan should not by his accusations prevent the atonement of the sins on that day.

The fact that Azazel occupied a place in Mandæan, Sabean, and Arabian mythology (see Brandt, "Mandäische Theologie," pp. 197, 198; Norberg's "Onomasticon," p. 31; Adriaan Reland's "De Religione Mohammedanarum," p. 89; Kamus, s.v. "Azazel" [demon identical with Satan]; Delitzsch, "Zeitsch. f. Kirchl. Wissensch. u. Leben," 1880, p. 182), renders it probable that Azazel was a degraded Babylonian deity. Origen ("Contra Celsum," vi. 43) identifies Azazel with Satan; Pirḳe R. El. (l.c.) with Samael; and the Zohar Aḥare Mot, following Naḥmanides, with the spirit of Esau or heathenism; still, while one of the chief demons in the Cabala, he never attained in the doctrinal system of Judaism a position similar to that of Satan.

Bibliography

  • Cheyne, Dictionary of the Bible;
  • Hastings, Dict. Bibl., Riehm, H. W. B.;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T. i. s.v.K.
  • Hauck, R. E.;
  • Kahisch, Comm. on Leviticus, ii. 293 et seq., 326 et seq.;
  • Winer, B. R.;


In First Enoch

According to 1 Enoch (a book of the Apocrypha), Azazel (here spelled ‘ăzā’zyēl) was one of the chief Grigori, a group of fallen angels who married women. This same story (without any mention of Azazel) is told in Genesis 6:2-4:

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. […] There were giants in the earth in those days; and also afterward, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.


1 Enoch portrays Azazel as responsible for teaching people to make weapons and cosmetics, for which he was cast out of heaven. 1 Enoch 8:1-3a reads:

And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.


The corruption brought on by Azazel and the Grigori degrades the human race, and the four archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel) “saw much blood being shed upon the earth and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth […] The souls of men [made] their suit, saying, "Bring our cause before the Most High; […] Thou seest what Azazel hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were in heaven, which men were striving to learn."

God sees the sin brought about by Azazel and has Raphael “bind Azazel hand and foot and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert — which is in Dudael — and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light.”

Raphael's binding of Azazel on the desert rocks of Dudael in upper Egyptmarker appears again in the Book of Tobit, which is found in Catholic and Orthodox bibles, but not in Jewish or most Protestant bibles. In that Book (the only place in Christian bibles where Raphael appears) he accompanies the young man Tobias on his perilous journey to marry his cousin Sarah, whose seven previous husbands had been killed on her wedding night by the demon Asmodeus (also known as Asmodai) (a variant of which story is possibly what the Sadducees are using to try to trap Jesus about marriage in the resurrection they disbelieved in, in Matt. 22:27-28, Mark 12:18-23, and Luke 20:29-32). Raphael saves Tobias from the same fate by showing him how to deal with that demon, too.

Azazel's fate is foretold near the end of 1 Enoch 2:8, where God says, “On the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire. […] The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin."

In 3 Enoch, Azazel is one of the three angels (Azza [Shemhazai] and Uzza [Ouza] are the other two) who opposed Enoch's high rank when he became the angel Metatron. Whilst they were fallen at this time they were still in Heaven, but Metatron held a dislike for them, and had them cast out. They were thenceforth known as the 'three who got the most blame' for their involvement in the fall of the angels marrying women. It should be remembered that Azazel and Shemhazai were said to be the leaders of the 200 fallen, and Uzza and Shemhazai were tutelary guardian angels of Egypt with both Shemhazai and Azazel and were responsible for teaching the secrets of heaven as well. The other angels dispersed to 'every corner of the Earth.'

In the Apocalypse of Abraham

In the extracanonical text the Apocalypse of Abraham, Azazel is portrayed as an unclean bird who came down upon the sacrifice which Abraham prepared. (This is in reference to Genesis 15:11: "Birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away" [niv]).

And the unclean bird spoke to me and said, "What are you doing, Abraham, on the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food for men? But these all will be consumed by fire and ascend to the height, they will destroy you."


And it came to pass when I saw the bird speaking I said this to the angel: "What is this, my lord?" And he said, "This is disgrace — this is Azazel!" And he said to him, "Shame on you, Azazel! For Abraham's portion is in heaven, and yours is on earth, for you have selected here, [and] become enamored of the dwelling place of your blemish. Therefore the Eternal Ruler, the Mighty One, has given you a dwelling on earth. Through you the all-evil spirit [was] a liar, and through you [come] wrath and trials on the generations of men who live impiously.
:— Abr. 13:4-9


He is also associated with the serpent (Satan) and hell. In Chapter 23, verse 7, he is described as having seven heads, 14 faces, "hands and feet like a man's [and] on his back six wings on the right and six on the left."

Abraham says that the wicked will "putrefy in the belly of the crafty worm Azazel, and be burned by the fire of Azazel's tongue" (Abr. 31:5), and earlier says to Azazel himself, "May you be the firebrand of the furnace of the earth! Go, Azazel, into the untrodden parts of the earth. For your heritage is over those who are with you" (Abr. 14:5-6).

Here there is the idea that God's heritage (the created world) is largely under the dominion of evil — i.e., it is "shared with Azazel" (Abr. 20:5), again identifying him with Satan, who is also "the prince of this world" (John 12:31, niv).

Dictionnaire Infernal

Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal (1863) describes Azazel as the guardian of goats. On the 10th day of Tishri, on the feast of the Expiation, it was Jewish custom to draw lots for two goats: one for the Lord and the other for Azazel. The goat for the Lord was then sacrificed and its blood served as atonement. With the goat for Azazel, the high priest would place both of his hands on the goat's head and confess both his sins and the sins of the people. The goat ("scapegoate") was then led into the desert and set free. Azazel then returned the goat. Milton described Azazel as the first gate-teacher of the infernal armies.

Modern Satanism

Azazel is revered as a physical/spiritual deity by many Theistic/Spiritual Satanic groups as a Promethean bringer of forbidden knowledge. Depictions of this entity vary from group to group, but he is generally regarded as a Luciferian force of enlightenment opposed to the Hebrew deity Yahweh, or the Demiurge, who is usually viewed as an imperfect tyrant, aimed only at keeping men from knowledge; knowledge of the falseness of the reality of which man occupies and its creator, thereby interpreting Azazel as a Gnostic liberator.

Literary references

Then [Satan] commands that ... be upreard

His mighty Standard; that proud honour claim'd

AZAZEL as his right, a Cherube tall:

Who forthwith from the glittering Staff unfurld

Th' Imperial Ensign


See also



References

  1. JewishEncyclopedia.com - AZAZEL
  2. JewishEncyclopedia.com - AZAZEL
  3. JewishEncyclopedia.com - AZAZEL
  4. JewishEncyclopedia.com - AZAZEL
  5. JewishEncyclopedia.com - AZAZEL
  6. Joy of Satan: Azazel
  7. Theology of the Church of Azazel
  8. Temple of the Black Light



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